Thursday, April 4, 2013

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

Writings of The Muse
Musing for a pantser trying to be a plotter is very difficult work. Renee is working on rewriting a project she gave up on several years ago. She got together with the Inner Editor and me and we all decided to give her one year to make the story work. After that, if it hasn't come together, it's off to the graveyard and on to something new.

I wasn't personally involved in this project the first time around. That honor goes to my predecessor, the Muse who ran off with Renee's oldest daughter. But I don't mind picking up where she left off. The familiars are charming, really. Most of the time, I love working with them.

But Renee is normally a pantser; she claims outlines have killed every project she's ever plotted out before. But since this isn't really a first draft, she decided we really just had to suck it up, pretend to be professionals about it, and plot the darn thing out. No sense in spending a significant chunk of time banging out a brand new draft with the same old problems, after all.

At first things were going just swimmingly. We dreamed up character worksheets and made a big timeline. There is a very nice scene list with a whole set of descriptive index cards in Scrivener. We even wrote a rough little synopsis to help shake out the kinks.

Yes, we wrote a synopsis when we didn't have to. Renee actually likes writing synopses.

Don't ask me why; I don't understand it either.

And the first 30k just flowed right out onto the page with very little trouble. There were still some hurdles to deal with, corners that didn't meet up exactly right the first time. But the Inner Editor and I worked it all out and managed to get Renee through the first act with only a few minor mental meltdowns.

But now the cats are rebelling. The outline and scene list have the story moving off in a certain direction and the whole litter of familiars is just sitting there, glaring at us and refusing to put even one paw on the path we've laid out. I suppose none of us should be surprised. Cats are contrary animals at best and Renee has four of them in her novel.

We've tried changing the venue for them. They responded to a shift of their territory about as well as you'd expect cats to do. I've pulled out all my best cajoling and reasoning and even bribing techniques. The Inner Editor has explained the plot dynamics and character arcs to them several times, complete with a few graphs and pie charts. I think she was also working on a spreadsheet at one point, but I convinced her to stay away from that.

There has been a good bit of glaring on all sides.

And still Renee sits down in front of the keyboard each time and never manages to eke out more than a few hundred words here or there. Most of which end up getting scrapped even before the end of the day. The dialogue is stilted, the action sluggish, and the romantic tension is blah and not actually very tense at all. It has been weeks and still the cats are just flat out refusing to cooperate.

We're giving in. We're going back to the outline and plotting out a new path. If the cats are this resistant, perhaps they see something we don't. Pantsing involves a lot of trusting the characters to know where they're going. It just didn't occur to any of us before now that perhaps plotting does too.


  1. Plotting requires a certain degree of flexibility. I say this as a plotter. Sometimes where you plan for the story to go doesn't work and you have to go back to the drawing board. I wouldn't start over, but I'd probably try re-plotting the next section.

  2. I didn't start over completely. I'm reworking from the point where it stopped moving forward. Sort of like rerouting the GPS to avoid a traffic jam, I guess.